Vanderbilt Law Review

Article Title

There's No Place Like Home: The Availability of Judicial Review Over Certification Decisions Invoking Federal Jurisdiction under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act


During the latter half of the twentieth century, society's perception of juvenile delinquents changed dramatically.' Once fairly characterized as "immature kids who might get arrested for truancy, shoplifting or joy riding," juvenile offenders have recently earned reputations as vicious criminals regularly committing such serious offenses as robbery, rape, and murder.' This apparent trend toward increased violence has resulted in a "get tough" approach to federal juvenile justice policies.' Accordingly, Congress has expanded the federal government's ability to prosecute certain juvenile offenders by broadening the scope of federal jurisdiction.

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, for example, authorizes federal prosecution of juveniles for certain violent crimes and serious drug offenses. Most of these juvenile offenders had previously fallen under the exclusive jurisdiction of state authorities." The Crime Control Act, however, permits federal prosecution whenever the Attorney General issues a certification that the case holds "a substantial [f]ederal interest." This gateway provision enables federal prosecutors to deny juvenile offenders participation in state juvenile justice systems. The certification option thus gives federal officials the power to strip federal juvenile offenders of the potential benefits of participating in the states' comprehensive systems of rehabilitative programs.